Full-Time vs Freelance Journalist: Career Potential

Being a freelance journalist, can be a great experience, very hard work, a case of traveling through some of the most beautiful or most dangerous places on Earth, or all of the above.  That may sound like an each-way bet as a career choice, but it’s also considered a very good career option compared to some of the full time journalist jobs.

The Basic Comparisons Between Full Time and Freelance Journalist Jobs

Full time journalist jobs have these common features:

  • Regular income
  • Regular hours (with some exceptions)
  • Pensions
  • Specialties for experts
  • Paid accommodation and travel

Freelance journalist jobs:

  • Irregular income
  • Irregular hours
  • Do it yourself pensions
  • Specialties for experts
  • Pay as you go travel and accommodation

This may look like a pretty strong argument for the full time jobs, but there’s more to this career than the basic amenities. There are other factors involved, and they make a big difference to career choices.

This is the classic “day job vs. freelancer” dichotomy:

Full time journalist career issues

  • An unstable work environment in major media
  • Limited ability to do work outside the job territory
  • Working within organizational hierarchies
  • In some organizations, promotions are extremely slow
  • Difficult relationships with employers including editorial issues
  • Restrictive writing and presentation styles
  • Low pay unless working for major media



Freelance journalist career issues

  • A flexible work environment which requires strong motivation
  • Good business sense required in working with contracts and clients
  • Being able to create good content for commercial purposes
  • Working with contracts and client relationships
  • Pay based on contract deals and agreements

As you can see, the freelance journalist job is difficult, but flexible, where the full timer is difficult but also potentially restrictive as well as being unremunerative. In fairness, most freelance journalists do start as employees, but this is one of the major reasons for turning freelance. They can’t progress through a professional obstacle course in conventional journalism, so they create their own opportunities.

Career Dynamics

Ironically, freelance journalists can progress faster than the full timers, mainly because of their ability to get at good materials. Not being stuck with the limitations of an organizational job does have its compensations. The freelance journalist can work on very high profile jobs which would normally be the sole property of senior journalists in an organization.

That means that the freelance journalist can produce a truly impressive portfolio of materials when contracting. Editors, particularly news and major media editors, will go on the basis of strong proven skills, and be prepared to accept articles they wouldn’t accept from their own junior staff.

Client relationships are a major factor in journalism. Both freelance journalists and full time journalists naturally create networks with publicists, celebrities, business managers, press officers, and other associations. The freelancer is in the box seat with these relationships, because of the lack of restrictions on their work. Full time journalists are pretty much stuck with “the job” role.

Important: When assessing your options in journalism, take a good hard look at:

  • The realities of the work
  • Your ability to provide good content
  • Your endurance levels for very hard work, particularly research

Get the right mix of job and skills, and you’ll have a great career.